The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Target Audience: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Keywords: weight and obesity, stigmas, friendship
Format Read: Digital copy received from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Katie, Pixie, Ellie, and Jane are fed up with not seeing results at their weekly slimming meeting. They gossip and ignore the leader anyway, so they decide to ditch the meetings for something more adventurous. Each week they set out to do something fun and new, but things change when Jane doesn’t fit in a standard sized theater seat. They form a club with the intent to find things that won’t make them feel uncomfortable or like an outcast.
• • •
Katie. Pixie. Ellie. Jane.
The one thing they all have in common: they’re overweight (for some of them, obese). They met at and attend a weekly slimming meeting (a la Weight Watchers), but decide something’s just gotta give. They’re no longer helpful and the only reason they’re attending anymore is so they can hang out together. The time they spent in meetings becomes time they dedicate to doing something fun together. The plan seems golden until they visit a local theater and Jane doesn’t fit in a seat.
The idea arises that they should share the information with other people and ultimately launch a website, form a club, and attend events they’re guaranteed to enjoy. Thus, the birth of The Curvy Girls Club. Katie spends tons of her free time calling and arranging all of the get-togethers. Rob, another friend from their meetings, joins the club (yep, even guys are welcome!) and becomes their IT specialist by helping set up the website and keeping track of hits. He’s into the club for a bigger reason than being the internet guru; he and Katie have been friends for a long time, but his feelings have developed into something more.
One amazing thing about Rob is that he’s not shy about finally fessing up to his feelings. Who doesn’t like a guy that can take charge and own his emotions? Except things get a little complicated. Katie’s had a six-year crush on her boss, Alex. He’s flirty. He’s sexy. But is he into Katie for the right reasons?
As the girls turn this casual club into a booming empire, Katie begins to drop weight. She’s not changed anything about her diet, exercise, or otherwise, so she visits a doctor and receives some news that she should take more seriously than she does. She spends some time “thinking” about her options and enjoys the weight loss. Rob gets weirded out by her sudden change in attitude and appearance, and Alex is suddenly front and center. See where things are headed? Yikes.
The whole concept of The Curvy Girls Club is overall lighthearted, but feels extremely authentic, too. What girl wouldn’t understand why Katie would be excited about dropping the weight, finally, when nothing else has worked? And who wouldn’t be infuriated that her work never sends her out on face-to-face client meetings (ironically, she works for a nutritional supplement company) but docks her pay for not meeting their requirements? Katie’s desire is to see TCGC grow so that she can replace her desk job with something she’s actually passionate about.
Underlying Katie’s issues are Jane and Pixie who have suffering marriages and the inability to lose weight. Ellie is in a healthy relationship, but still packs on extra weight. Each woman’s journey had a touch of seriousness — verbal abuse, being weeded out of your job because of size, trust issues, not being able to lose pregnancy weight, and dietary supplements. I’d bet money on the possibility that the vast majority of us can relate to something in that list. And it’s for that sole reason that I loved The Curvy Girls Club. Fun concept, great characters you’d want to hang out with, and tons of depth.
(P.S. I love how eye-catching this cover is.)
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• • •
In mid-December, Hannah and I rolled out a laidback, sporadic reading project called “You Make Me Feel So Young” — where we joint read a book from our childhood and pick a title for the other to check out. This post includes the very scientific results to our first challenge.
Biggest realization: I thought I read fast but Hannah is a gold medalist.
Second realization: These are quite fun to read outloud. Since my husband is currently obsessed with this video game called Destiny, I made it feel like storytime by reading Harriet the Spy outloud. For the record, the name Ole Golly is repeated so much… (and I understand why for this age group) …that it started to sound like gibberish to me.
Third realization: Gosh, this is tons of fun.
Let’s get started, shall we?
♥ ♥ ♥
Joint pick: HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh | First published in 1964
More Than You Know: Did you know that a companion book (Harriet Spies Again) was published in 2002 by Helen Ericson? She was granted permission by the Louise Fitzhugh estate to continue the series. (Fitzhugh died in 1974 from a brain aneurysm.)
Memories Are Made of This: I have a confession to make. I’m not even sure if I finished this book when I was a kid. Yes, I have a pretty beat up copy but…I barely remembered a thing and I’ve been known to have a great memory! Honestly, I probably know more about the Rosie O’Donnell film than the actual book.
Second Time Around: The reason I don’t think I read this one the whole way through is because I was floored by what a creep Harriet could be. She is just… not a nice kid. Sure, she gets very little attention from her parents and the amount of freedom she has in NYC as an 11-year old is astonishing. But, again, different world. I admired her for being so committed to her writing and for her loyalty toward Ole Golly. Most of the time I felt like she got the short end of the sick so while I don’t approve of her acting out… it made sense. (I hope she has a good therapist.)
You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: I’m not sold on this book being at the top of my reading list for my future child. (James agreed with me.) A book I might have them read when they are older but not when they are aligned to Harriet’s age. The reading experience needs to be more of a “ha ha wow” kind of thing, I think. (And even then, it’s a tad disturbing!)
Hannah’s pick for me: NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry | First published in 1989
Do You Know Why? I knew I wanted to choose historical fiction for Estelle’s first read because it’s been my favorite genre ever since childhood. But what book to pick? As soon as I realized she hadn’t read Number the Stars, I knew it was the one! It’s a lifelong favorite for me – combining Lois Lowry’s lovely writing, a memorable heroine and an emotional story. I was hoping that this book would bring history alive for Estelle in the same way it once did for me! – from Hannah
Can’t You Just See Yourself: I cannot figure out why I did not read this one in elementary school or even early middle school. What a brave female character though and a brilliant romance in such a compact little book. I was tremendously moved by Annemarie’s story and the sacrifices and actions of her family as the Nazi’s turn their lives upside down. It also hits some subtle marks about dealing with grief within a family at a young age.
I Give You My Word: Unlike with Harriet, I wouldn’t think twice about having a copy of this book in my collection for a future child or sharing it with others who are building up a great bookcase. It’s an important book yes because it deals with overcoming adversity but it’s nice to see a young girl finding bravery she doesn’t even know she possesses and a devoted friendship.
Before the Music Ends: I wholeheartedly believe you should pick this one up… whether it’s to read it for the first time or to revisit. (I bought my copy on the Nook and it was so inexpensive.) In a world of very long, intense books, Lois Lowry’s writing is a reminder of how much can be conveyed in small packages.
Have you read either of these lately? Do you remember the first time you did?
Thanks so much for taking part in #SoRatherBeYoung! Tweet & chat with us! We’re nice.
Stay tuned for our joint read Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell in April… and some social media fun!
On New Year’s Eve, I climbed on a very tall ladder, in a very warm Manhattan bookstore to grab a copy of AFTER I DO for a dear friend who needed a purple book and who I thought needed to hear this heartbreakingly honest story of healing and carving your own way. Did I mention I was wearing a heavy winter jacket in this warm bookstore and that I had to climb the very top step of this very tall ladder?
THIS is how much I adore the writing of Taylor Jenkins Reid. I read her first book (FOREVER, INTERRUPTED) when I left Austin after a visit with Magan. I was sad and I needed a book to make me feel better. FI didn’t promise to be cheery but it certainly welcomed me into its world and let me forget for a little while. These two books are the reason why I’m thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for Taylor’s upcoming novel: MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE (Washington Square Books, 7/7/15). All I can say is this: I hope she plans to write a book every year for the rest of her life because, well, the need is strong.
Congrats to Taylor & I hope you’ll consider picking up her other two titles as you countdown to summer for this one. – Estelle
What it’s all about | At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar—where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.
It’s just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.
What happens if she leaves with Gabby?
What happens if she leaves with Ethan?
In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?
Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.
Publication Date: July 7, 2015 ♦ Find it on Goodreads + Amazon + B&N
About the Author | Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.
FOREVER, INTERRUPTED | AFTER I DO
Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Dundurn Group
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: missing parent, London, abusive parent
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Edie and her mom Sydney flee to London to get away from her abusive father; the day after her mom’s first night shift at her new job, she doesn’t ever return home. Edie decides she can’t go to the authorities because she doesn’t trust them (since her dad was a cop). She goes in search of Sydney with a guy from her school, Jermaine.
• • •
Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a really great “whodunnit” thriller if it had kept me on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, timing and unnecessary sexuality prevented me from staying hooked.
Edie and her mom, Sydney, pack up their lives within a few hours to flee Canada and take cover in London. For years they’ve been hopping from location to location to hide from her father. They left him when his abuse was no longer just verbal. He’s in law enforcement so outrunning him is difficult, but it is even less likely that someone would believe this cop is capable of being so aggressive.
Edie’s life in London is less than ideal — their apartment isn’t as homey as it is shabby (minus the chic). Forget about making friends; somehow she pisses off the mean girls on her first of school. Worst of all is that after her mom’s first day at her sketchy new job, she never reappears. Edie doesn’t receive a phone call from her and knows something’s gone awry; somehow her dad has always been able to figure out where they’ve gone. Has he resurfaced again so soon?
With a trail of lies following her and a lot of fear she’ll be thrown into the foster care system, Edie knows she can’t go to the authorities. She has to start the search for her mom on her own. She makes an unlikely “friend”, Jermaine, who has a rumor mill of gossip outlining his juvenile record. Jermaine and Edie set out to find Sydney, but hit dead end after dead end.
Edie’s story is an interesting one; I’m always fascinated by how people will get out of unbelievable circumstances. How would Edie and Jeramine do this on their own as two young teenagers with no detective skills scrounging for clues in London? That was the catch for me, but Since You’ve Been Gone lost its footing when things came to a screeching halt with a surprise revelation. It seemed like things were wrapped up abruptly from that point on. Essentially she had too much to handle and no way out without this loophole.
Quite possibly more upsetting was the escalation of the romance between Edie and Jermaine. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that not all books need a love story. It didn’t feel authentic here. These two really started out as enemies, two people who didn’t trust one another, when the story began. When less than 24 hours later, they find themselves in Jermaine’s house and Edie is contemplating having sex with Jermaine all while tangled up in this great search for her mother, things just didn’t feel convincing. Is it possible to consider losing your virginity with a boy you’ve just met that you didn’t even trust at the beginning of the day all while wondering if you’re mother’s been kidnapped or murdered?
My answer would be no.
Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a story I would have loved with more refinement and focus. I suggest you check out Liars, Inc. or Twisted Fate if you’re looking for a good “edge of your seat” book.
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Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: womanhood, friendship, empowerment, career, family
Format read: A brilliant gift. (Thank you!)
Summary: After a year off from dating and sorting through friendships to eliminate the bad, Anna throws her focus at her career and a new client that could finally set her apart from her colleagues. Armed with inspiration and a handful of complication, she finds herself at a romance novel convention — desperately trying to stay on top of her job and the added challenge of figuring out to do about a guy she uncharacteristically makes out with in an elevator.
Sometimes a book comes along at the perfect moment — when you are sad, when you are seeking a bit of strength, and when you are grappling to understand the changes going on around you. Girl Before a Mirror is that book. As someone who reads plenty, I’ll admit to saying this before but it’s funny — ever since I finished this particular title I find myself recommending it right and left. It’s so relevant to so many situations I’m hearing about and even — the world — where a major motion picture event is based on a self-published book about BDSM and people love standing on their high horse and judging what other people deem as entertainment.
Main character Anna is coming off a year of zero dating, she’s eliminating problematic friends from her life, and she’s taking control of her work situation. As an account executive, she seem the males at her job constantly patted on the back, and she determined to bring in a new account and make a splash. Without genuine support from her firm, she sets out with a rookie colleague (Sasha) to land a body wash account in a surprising place — a popular romance novel convention in Phoenix.
So how does this all connect?
Marketing is all about making two things click, and I don’t think Anna realizes just how great she is at this kind of thing. Taking a washed-up product (ha) and making it new? Sound familiar? This product, in ways, is a reflection of her — uninspired, unsettled, and a bit lost. She, too, is in need of refreshing and the first part of her answer comes in an unexpected form — Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero — the current “it” book urging woman to be the heroes of their own stories. Anna decides to use it as a launching pad for her new campaign — which is how she finds herself meeting the Elaine Stritch-like author, attending pirate booty themed parties, making out with a hot guy in an elevator, and hanging with the mysterious yet capable Sasha at a romance novel convention.
Like many, Anna judges the readers who fancy romance novels and even begrudges the writers who write them. She believes them to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure, and not something people would actually admit to being great stories. So much of what Anna has built herself to be is challenged on this trip. Why does she have to stick her nose up at everything? When did she become THAT person who stomps on those things that make other people happy? Who is she to deem one thing better than another?
In ways, this passion project forces Anna to find her compassion. It forces her to be her own advocate, even when her decisions put her in precarious situations. She must let loose and truly listen to get what she wants, to find some kind of happiness. In truth, she’s only in Phoenix for a few days but it’s such a catalyst for the rest of the story. Ya know, Palmer could have decided to end her book when the conference did, but she pushed Anna to her breaking point. She pushed her to learn more about herself and her limits.
Life is this messy monster, and Palmer speaks that truth in the two books of hers that I’ve read. So much that I found myself questioning my own decisions and wondering if I tried enough, did I think enough about the other person, or was I right to think it was time for me to bow out and try something new? From career decisions to falling in love to friend breakups and fade outs, Girl Before a Mirror spoke to so many of my vulnerabilities but it also urged me to be strong. In a world where women are constantly brought down because of their emotions or mistakes, it’s a revelation to come into contact with characters who are feeling powerless, floundering a little bit, but making the big step to ask themselves the big questions and make things right — no matter how long it takes, no matter how many heartbreaks it takes to get there. Not only this deep stuff, but I can’t forget about how important it is to embrace what you love and continuing to hold it dear even when others don’t understand. There’s a reason why we are gravitate to certain things, and, we shouldn’t have to answer to anyone but ourselves.
There are limitless discussions and feelings to be unearthed in Girl Before a Mirror, and I have a feeling its not quite done with me yet.
Add GIRL BEFORE A MIRROR to Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon
Read our joint review of Liza Palmer’s NOWHERE BUT HOME
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand [twitter • website]
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: suicide, loss of a brother, life after loss, counseling
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Lex’s brother committed suicide and she’s not entirely sure why. She wants answers she’ll never get; she wants more than his one-line-post-it-note on his bedroom mirror. Lex wants to go back to way things were before.
• • •
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is going to be really difficult for me to review well. I wish I could draw a diagram for you that showed all of the emotions and feelings I experienced while slowly (because it’s like the best, most delicious meal you’ve ever had: it must be savored) worked through Lex’s story.
Lex’s life is divided into befores and afters:
Before when she was happy.
After her brother committed suicide.
Before when she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
After when she’s lost touch with all of her best friends.
Before when she was sure she’d met her soul mate.
After when she broke things off with him because it’s just too much.
Lex’s mom is barely functioning; she goes to work, comes home, cries herself to sleep in Tyler’s room, rinses and repeats. When her mom swears she gets a whiff of his cologne, Lex blows her off. But then a few things start happening to Lex and she’s positive her therapist will prescribe her medication if she tells him she has seen Tyler’s ghost. Or that she’s noticed photographs have been removed from frames throughout the house. Surely this can’t be happening, right?
This was my first of Cynthia’s books and I have to say I’m just so incredibly in love with her storytelling. I’m an “issues” kind of girl when it comes to books so I’ve read a number of books that deal with a similar situation. But man, it felt like Cynthia really forced me into this world. Everything just felt so right with the pacing, the environment, the friendships, and Lex trying to figure out how to move forward. There’s an added element of Lex’s journal entries that her therapist forces her to write, and honestly, sometimes these kinds of things can feel jarring because they break up the story. It worked so, so well here. (Especially when everything really came full circle at the end. Cue the tears.)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is heartbreaking and takes a good, long look at a family after the surprising loss of a son and brother. There are so many questions and so, so few answers. It’s less of an emphasis, however, on Tyler and the choice he made, and more about accepting his decision and how Lex and her mom move forward. Just in case you’re wondering if this is a ghost book, my answer would be no. It’s a very realistic adaptation of a grieving family with a very logical explanation for why these things are happening to Lex and her mom.
I caution you to prepare a continuous stretch of time for The Last Time We Say Goodbye. You won’t want to move an inch. And quite possibly, if you’re like me, you’ll be angry you haven’t read Cynthia’s work until now. Don’t worry — I’m off to correct this!
• • •
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